For McDonald's, the last few days should have been a time to celebrate one of its bolder environmental initiatives. Instead, it's been caught up in a social media tornado.
McDonald's announced recently that it has pledged that all of the fish it serves in Europe will be 'sustainable'. Given the rapidly depleting stocks of cod and other fish common to northern Europe, this is a great step forward for McDonald's and clearly one of the ambitious steps towards environmental-friendliness that any large food franchise has ever taken.
McDonald's has 7,000 restaurants in Europe and this will make a difference. Rather than resting on their laurels though, McDonald's PR team has been trying to put out an almighty social media fire all weekend.
Twitter users will have inevitably noticed the hashtag "seriously mcdonalds" doing the rounds on the internet this weekend. This all stems from a photo of a fake letter with McDonald's letterhead claiming that a certain store would be adding a surcharge to purchases made by African-American customers after a spate of robberies. McDonald's aggressively used Twitter to tell the world that the letter was false, and though the photo spread like a wildfire, most people online now seem to have acknowledged that the letter was a fraud. (For a great timeline of how the story evolved, read this Gawker piece)
That's the power of social media for you. While platforms like Twitter and Facebook made the image spread rapidly, they also provided McDonald's with a forum to make its case to the world. Justice won out in the end.